Career Advice Opinion

The Importance of Thank-you Letters

By AAEE — February 26, 2009 3 min read
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A thank-you/follow-up letter is the professional way to maintain contact with an employer. This letter will assure the Personnel Office of your continued interest in the position. Remember the purpose of the letter is to maintain contact, but make sure that you have a substantial reason for contacting the employer each time you write, such as:
•Thanking the employer for the opportunity to interview (preferably within 24 hours of the interview).
•Sending supportive materials, e.g., transcripts.
•Notifying the employer of a change of address or additional experience gained since submitting your application.

How to Write a Thank-you Note:
Thank-you notes should be sent as soon as possible after the interview and before the hiring decision is made. Well- written notes should say more than “thank you.” There are many opinions about what to say; however, here are some elements to consider:

Express Enthusiasm: Remind the interviewer that you are a good fit for the school or district and that you have continued interest in and enthusiasm for the position. It is one more chance to market yourself in a tangible way.

Answer Unresolved Issues: Answer and expand upon any relevant questions raised in the interview. If you did not get a chance to mention certain points, you can now address those items. The thank-you note is your chance to expand on that positive ‘first’ impression.

Express Sincerity: Be genuine and sincere in your gratitude. Comment on the importance of the meeting.

Personalize It: Highlight a key point from your meeting that was unique and meaningful. This will refresh the interviewer’s memory of you. Interviewers are typically impressed with proof that candidates listen and remember the conversation. If you met with several people, it may not be obvious who the real decision-makers are. Make sure you vary slightly the content of each thank-you note. No one likes to receive a carbon copy of a note that everyone else received. This will also force you to remember with whom you interviewed, which will make your follow-up more effective. Remember to ask for business cards before leaving the interview so that you have the correct spelling and title of your interviewers, and make some notes while your memory is fresh.

Keep It Short: The “Rule of Three” says that the human mind can only remember three things about anything. If pushed to remember four, the mind will forget all four from overload. Choose three points you want to stress about yourself which might include skills, knowledge and personal traits. Ideally, these three points should be presented in the resume, reflected in the cover letter, discussed in the interview and then restated in the thank-you note.

Typed vs. Handwritten vs. E-mail:
For more conservative school districts, you may want to consider typed thank-you letters. Using a business letter format conveys that this meeting was important enough to take the time to present yourself in a professional manner. However, alumni (and people you know) may prefer a handwritten thank-you note. You must still prepare it carefully, write legibly and use tasteful stationery. If you want to add to one of the answers you gave at the interview, a more lengthy, typed letter directed toward the issue may be beneficial.

If the school district representative has an e-mail address on their business card or is a technology-based employer, then a well-written e-mail thank you note may be appropriate. A word of caution: do not make the message overly friendly (many people have a tendency to be less formal with e-mail). Also, try to keep your message to one screen length; employers appreciate brevity. Be aware that some employers may prefer the traditional approach. In addition, handwritten, hard copy thank-you notes typically get filed in an applicant’s folder, whereas e-mail is typically read and deleted.

The Importance of Thank-you Notes:
A thank-you note can make a candidate stand out from the rest of the pool, by demonstrating your professionalism, follow-through and interest. And a little common courtesy couldn’t hurt! In a tight job market, you need a competitive advantage over other candidates. You can increase your chances of being hired by writing thank you notes. Statistically, less than 10% of interviewees ever follow up with thank-you notes. Imagine how positively that 10% will be viewed.

--Diana Sanchez
Career Counselor, California State University San Marcos AND
Past-President, California Association for Employment in Education

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